Author: Bob Bowers, Dawn Heady, Steve Lane, Scott Love
Audience: People developing in FileMaker
Reviewer: Kay Ewbank
You might not think of FileMaker as an obvious target for developers, but it is used to create a lot of custom applications, and over the years more features aimed at this use have been added. This book is a reworking of an earlier title for FileMaker 9 to take account of the extra features in FileMaker 12. FileMaker can be used not only on Macs and Windows machines, but on other devices such as iPhones and iPads. The subtitle of the book - Functions, Scripts, Commands and Grammars - gives a good description of the areas the authors address. The authors say they set out to write the book that they, as developers, would want to have within arm’s reach on their desks.
After an introduction looking at the various FileMaker 12 editions and new features, the meat of the book starts with a look at layout tools and creating charts. The next part covers functions and occupies 200 pages. Each function gets at least a paragraph including a description and an example. Of course, this information is available in the online help, but the examples are in many cases better in the book.
Scripting occupies the next part of the book and now includes coverage of script triggers, which were introduced in FileMaker 10. All the script ‘step’ commands are covered individually, and scripting overall occupies roughly 150 pages. This isn’t a ‘how to write scripts’ section; it’s a reference showing all the commands and their syntax.
FileMaker Go, which can be used to develop for iPhone and iPad, gets a short section to itself, essentially covering aspects such as synchronization and security. The next part of the book is titled ‘connectivity’, and includes chapters on XML; the FileMaker API for PHP; JDBC /ODBC and External SQL; and AppleScript integration. As elsewhere in the book, the XML chapter covers the syntax with some sample code. The chapter on PHP looks at the libraries you can use to work with FileMaker data from the web. You can also use AppleScript , the Max OS X scripting language, either to let other apps work with FileMaker, or to control other apps from FileMaker. This chapter does give a bit more details of how to go about this in general rather than the ‘list of commands’ layout of the rest of the book.
I can’t argue with the description of this book; it does exactly what it says on the cover - it’s a reference of all the functions and commands a developer might use when working with FileMaker. You couldn’t learn to use FileMaker by reading the book, and it isn’t written to be ‘read’. Instead, it pretty much offers a reference manual. The examples are short but well thought out, and the descriptions of the functions and commands are well written. If you’re working with FileMaker and want a paper reference, this book fulfils that need.